The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Essential Insanity

Image by Nesster

Image by Nesster

Walk with me a while and imagine you are mad. Crazy. Insane. It’s an interesting sort of insanity–you see the world as something other than it is. You are dead convinced that people are out to get you, but these people have almost no means to harm you and fear your retaliation greatly, because you’re a powerful person and they are weak.

You believe that you are hale and hearty; but in fact you’re ghastly, obese and ill. You think you’re rich, but in fact you’re poor. You think you have the best doctor around, but in fact your doctor is worse than almost every other doctor and charges 50 percent more than them. You think you’re tough, and you certainly haven’t let the fact that two ninety pound weaklings seem to be able to stand up to you get in the way of that.

You think that you have the most advanced technological toys, that what you have is the best, and once you did, but these days everyone else seems to have more advanced stuff.

The illness goes deeper though, a deep decay in your brain. The parts of your brain that make most of the decisions for your body think everything is wonderful. They seem only able to take in sensations from the taste buds these days, and for the last thirty years you’ve been on a rich diet. So they think everything’s great. Your once lean body, packed with muscles, has been replaced by a flaccid one, paunchy and fat, but somehow the key parts of your brain don’t know that. They don’t feel your sore back, they don’t hear the broken down breathing, and they don’t see the gut hanging over your belt.

The you I’m referring to, as I’m sure many have figured out by now, is the US. For years, I’ve been writing for the US and observing it carefully, and I’ve found it one of the most interesting problems I’ve encountered in my life. Because America and Americans are very unpredictable. Now, of course, the first thing I thought was, “It’s me,” and in a sense, that’s true.

But here’s the thing: I have a very good record of predicting what will happen in Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. And when I get it wrong, I can look back and easily figure out why. Yet, I’ve never visited any of those countries and, really, I know very little about them. On the other hand, I grew up imbibing American media, know American history well, have visited America a number of times and spent eight years in jobs that required me to deal with multiple Americans daily.

Odd. Very odd. And something I’ve discussed with other foreign observers of American society and politics.

The first clue to what was wrong came around the time of the Iraq war. It was obvious, dead obvious, to everyone outside of the US and to US citizens who were spending a lot of time parsing news, that the war was a joke and that Saddam had no nukes and was no threat to the US. Most Americans, however, didn’t get that. The reason, of course, was propaganda.

Fair enough. Every country whips its citizens into war hysteria with propaganda. But what was truly remarkable wasn’t that, it was that somehow the majority of Americans, over 70 percent, thought that Iraq was behind 9/11. Iraq, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing.

Remarkable. Americans went along with going to war with Iraq then because they thought Iraq had attacked them and had nukes and could attack them again. A complete propaganda tissue of lies. But if you believe it all, well, of course Iraq needed to be attacked.

What looked to the rest of the world as crazy was entirely logical. It was, however, still insane. If I see a tentacled monster from the fourth dimension attack me and I respond by grabbing a knife and slashing apart my next door neighbour who’s waving at me, well, I had a logical, coherent reason for what I did, but I still murdered him, and I’m still insane.

This is the first type of insanity in the US and it runs deep. I often feel like I spend more time correcting outright lies, outright propaganda, than anything else. Just this week I had to explain to a left-wing blogger (who should know better) that single payer health insurance is cheaper and gives better results than private insurance system. Now in the US, this is somehow still in doubt, but that’s insane–this isn’t in question. Every other western nation that has single payer insurance spends about 1/3 less than the US and has as good health metrics or better either in most or all categories. This isn’t something that’s up in the air, this isn’t something that is unsettled. This is a bloody FACT.

Americans think they are the most technologically advanced society in the world, yet the US does not have the fastest broadband, the fastest trains, the best cellphones, the most advanced consumer electronics (go to Japan and you’ll see what I mean) or the most advanced green energy technology.

In the primary season, Ron Paul was repeatedly cut out of media coverage and John Edwards was hardly covered. The majority of Americans thought that Edwards was running as the most right-wing of the Democratic candidates. Huckabee was constantly called a populist when his signature tax program would gut the middle class and slap the poor onto a fiscal rack.

And, when all is said and done, politicians are still running on slashing taxes and having that make up for itself, while the US runs a balance of payments higher than any other country post World War II has ever done without going into an economic crash.

That’s one type of insanity–thinking the world is something that it isn’t.

The second type is worse, in a sense. When Diamond wrote his book on why societies collapse he came to the conclusion that it occurred when elites weren’t experiencing the same things as the majority of the society–when they were isolated from the problems and challenges the society was facing.

For 30 years, ordinary Americans haven’t had a raise. And despite all the lies, Americans are beginning to get that.

But, for the people in charge, the last thirty years have been absolutely wonderful. Seriously, things haven’t been this good since the 1890’s and the 1920’s. Everyone they know–their families, their mistresses and toyboys, their friends–is doing well. Wall Street paid even larger bonuses for 2007, the year they ran the ship into the shore, than they did in 2006 when their bonuses equalled the raises of 80 million Americans. Multiple CEOs walked away from companies they had bankrupted with golden parachutes in excess of 50 million. And if you can find a senator who isn’t a millionaire, (except maybe Bernie Sanders) you let me know.

Life has been great. The fact that America is physically unhealthy, falling behind technologically, hemorrhaging good jobs, and that ordinary Americans are in debt up to their eyebrows, haven’t seen a raise in 30 years, and live in mortal fear of getting ill–because even if they have insurance, it doesn’t cover the necessary care–means nothing to the decision-making part of America because it hasn’t experienced it. America’s elites are doing fine, thanks. All they can taste or remember is the caviar and champagne they swill to celebrate how wonderful they are and how much they deserve all the money federal policy has given them.

This is the second insanity of the US: The decision making apparatus in the US is disconnected from the results of their decisions. They make sure they get paid, that they’re wealthy, and let the rest of society go to hell. In the end, of course, most of them will find that the money isn’t theirs, and that what they’ve stolen is worth very little if the US has a real financial crisis.

The third insanity is simpler: It’s the wealth effect. At the end of World War II, the US had about half the world’s economy. Admittedly that’s because Europe had been bombed into oblivion, but even when Europe rebuilt. the US was still far, far ahead. The US was insanely rich and powerful. See, when you’re rich you can do stupid and unproductive things for a long time. There are plenty of examples of this but the two most obvious ones are the US military and the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs hasn’t reduced the number of junkies or drugs on the street in any noticeable way. It has increased the US’s prison population to the highest per capita level in the world, however. It has cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It has gutted civil liberties (the War on Terror is just the War on Drugs on crack, after all). And after 30 years, does anyone seriously say, “Wait, this doesn’t work, it costs billions of dollars and it makes us a society of prisons?” Of course not, if anything people compete to be “tough on crime.” What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results?

Then there’s the US military. It costs, oh, about as much as everyone else in the world’s military combined. It seems to be at best in a stalemate and probably losing two wars against a bunch of rabble whose total budgets probably wouldn’t equal a tenth of one percent of a US appropriations bill. And it is justified as “defending” America even though there is no nation in the entire world which could invade the US if the US had one tenth the military.

But the US could (not can, they are now unaffordable, but could) afford to have a big shiny military and lots of prisons, so it does. Lots of people get rich off of both of them, lots of rural whites get to lock up urban blacks and lots of communities that wouldn’t exist otherwise get to survive courtesy of the unneeded military bases and prisons which should never have been built.

Insane–believing things that aren’t true.

Insane–decision makers are cut off from the consequences of their decisions and in fact are getting reverse feedback, as things get worse for most Americans and as America gets weaker and poorer, they are the richest they’ve ever been.

Insane–so rich that no one will stop doing things that clearly don’t work and are harmful, because people are making money off the insanity.

All of this is what makes predicting the US so surreal. It’s not just about knowing what the facts are and then thinking “Okay, how would people respond to that?” You have to know what the facts are, what the population thinks the facts are, what the elites think the facts are, who’s making money off of it, and then ask yourself if these facts are having any real effect on the elites and if that effect is enough to outweigh the money they’re making off of failure (how many of them have children serving in Iraq? Right, not urgent to fix).

And then you have to go back to the facts and ask yourself, “What effect will these have even if they’re being ignored?” Facts are ugly things, they tend not to go away.

All of which makes the US damn near impenetrable, often enough even to Americans.

But here’s what I do know–you can get away with being nuts as long as enough people are benefiting from you being insane. When the credit cards are all maxed out, when the relatives have stolen even the furniture, suddenly all the enablers go away, and the kneebreakers or the men in white pay you a visit. At that point, you can live in the real world, or you can go to the asylum.

I wonder which way the US will go?

(Originally Posted at FDL January 20, 2008)

(Second repost, last one was May 5, 2009. This is, IMO, one of the more important posts I ever wrote.)

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The Word Terrorism


You Will Never Be Free of Identity Politics


  1. E Tashiro

    So, Ian, what do you think of Naomi Klein’s analysis? What I mean is this: you have described America as functionally if not clinically insane, but I haven’t quite heard that this is deliberately imposed upon us. It might not matter, of course. I mean being ‘insane’ or being specifically ‘paranoid’. Naomi goes to the trouble of providing a pretty clear villain and methodology to the villainy. Do you see villains, or some organic illness?

  2. John B.

    Ian, I think this an excellent article with critical insights into our (USA) national predicament. I see no easy way out especially with a population and leaders who are incapable of the same kind of critical thinking and self reflection. Everything and every attitude seems to be apre moi, le deluge…

  3. Jim

    “No social order is destroyed until all the productive forces for which it gives scope have been developed: new and higher production relations cannot appear until the material conditions for their existence has ripened with the womb of the old social order. Therefore mankind in general never sets itself problems it cannot solve: since, looked at more closely, we always find that the problem arises only when the material conditions for its solution exist, or at least, are already in process of formation.”

    If you believe as I do that the objective conditions are way ahead of the subjective understand of these conditions, then the “insanity” that you described will persist. Publications, the electronics industry market research and knowledge network, announces the availability of a new report, “Robotics: Technologies and Global Markets.” According to the new report, the global market for robotics was worth $17.3 billion in 2008. The market is broken down into segments of industrial, domestic service, professional service, military, security and space applications. Of these, industrial applications currently have the largest market share, worth $11.5 billion in 2008.

    If robotics technology is permanently replacing workers, then neither the capitalist nor the workers can continue their same relationship under these new conditions.

  4. senecal

    Jim, thanks for the reminder from the Great One. However, I don’t think the robotic factor will ever do away with the worker — only the worker’s work will become less meaningful, poorer paid. My first experience with robotics was a Horn and Hardardt cafeteria, sometime in the fifties, where the food came out of little windows. There were still plenty of unhappy workers around, mopping floors, emptying trash, unloading delivery trucks, and refilling the little windows.

    The real problem Ian poses is why the subjective factor remains so far behind the objective conditions, and will it ever wake up?

  5. I disagree with you to this extent, Ian – we’re still tough. We’ve weathered a lot, and we’ll weather a lot more. The problem here is that we’re so ignorant of the rest of the world that we don’t realize that people in other countries can be just as tough. You even see this in our thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We think, if I can summarize the attitude simply, that if the Israelis just get tough with the Palestinians they’ll learn their place. Of course, this completely ignores that this is what the Israelis have been doing for the past 40 years, and that no society is just going to lay down and die for the benefit of another. Our own history ought to have taught us that.

    Toughness without the ability to think critically isn’t terribly useful. We’ve become as lazy intellectually as we have physically. If it were just a case of finally realizing the course we’re on and changing it, that would be one thing. I really wonder if we can even read the frickin compass.

  6. Barry

    Some sociological factors that tend to affect the decisions of the powerful:

    1. As people become more powerful, rich, famous, or elite in some other way, they tend to get more conservative. This makes sense, because if you are good at winning a game, you probably aren’t going to want to play some other game that you might not be so good at.

    2. Scarcity (actual or anticipated) lead to hoarding. If you work in an office where you need staples to do your job, and the company is very poor at providing staples in a timely manner; then every time there’s a new shipment, you will grab a pile of staples and lock them in your desk. Of course, everyone doing this in your office will make the supply chain even more unpredictable. This is a trivial example, but the rule scales up all the way. What if the rich and powerful have seen scarcity coming for some time, and have been maneuvering to hoard what they can? For example, a giant oil corporation would have a good analysis of whether Peak Oil is near or far (no matter what they tell us), and might want to manipulate US politics to get the military to make a Middle East land grab on their behalf. Financial institutions, realizing that US citizens can only borrow so much, might manipulate US politics to make bankruptcy harder for citizens. Rich people, knowing how much inequality is increasing, might anticipate a breaking point and start moving into walled communities with private security forces, and they might manipulate US politics to allow the US military to operate within US borders, in anticipation of civil unrest..

    I don’t believe our elites are cut off from reality so much. They’ve seen where a number of trend lines are heading for some time, and have been acting to protect their power, wealth and status for some time. They have known for a while that their interests are diverging from those of the middle and lower classes, and realize on some level that the masses are an imminent danger to them.

    The insane part is that their actions are what is making that true.

    None of this involves any conspiracy theories. It is not a coordinated class war with secret meetings — it’s just the powerful rearranging the world around them to the extent that they can. All of us manipulate the world around us to make it work better for us. Some people just have more impact than those of us in the “reality-based community.”

  7. Ian Welsh

    Barry: yeah, they are cut off from reality. The majority of them didn’t see the financial crisis coming, for example, and the majority of them didn’t realize the Iraq war was going to be a mess. That’s not to say they’re completely cut off, but they are functionally cut off. It is true that they have different interests than normal people (to an extent) but it’s also true that because they have different interests and because they are cut off, they are going to crash the society.

    Cujo: Tough but stupid –> dead. I’m also not sure that Americans are all that tough. I’ve lived in 3rd world countries and Americans look like big soft bullies to me, not tough guys.

    Tashiro: What Naomi describes is going on, no question, but I think it’s only one part of the sequence. However it’s true that it’s in a lot of people’s best interest (or so they think) to make Americans effectively crazy.

  8. While I suspect there are small conspiracies going on here and there, Barry, I think you’re right. There’s no grand conspiracy. There doesn’t have to be. Everyone working for his perceived best interests can explain much of what’s going on. Disinterest and lack of education by the populace can probably explain the rest. Nevertheless, to deliberately go down a path that will lead to your own society’s downfall is still insane, and the economic elite of this country have been doing that for some time.

  9. Jim

    “Nevertheless, to deliberately go down a path that will lead to your own society’s downfall is still insane, and the economic elite of this country have been doing that for some time.”

    Cujo: I live in a town where the new condo buildings have only sold about 50% of their units. Yet, new condo complexes are being built every day. Is this not anarchy of production and the definition of a contradiction? Would you describe it as “insane” not to see causality or, rather, would you say they following the objective laws of this economic system? In other words, can we take the discussion out of the psychological (“insane”) and put the discussion back into the economic (objective laws of the economy?)

    To use another example, the head of GM, trying to cut labor costs and compete with other auto companies, will continue to bring robotics into production. This is an objective fact. Workers will be laid off at the same time that production of the product (cars) will increase. As a result of this, the market for the increased bulk of products will have shrunk: the robots can’t buy cars, nor will they buy any of the other goods flooding the market from the other industries which have also increased production of goods thanks to robotics.

    I am not sure “insanity” helps us understand the depth of the problem. If the problem is not set up correctly it can not be solved.

  10. senecal

    Jim, this time you convinced me (about robotics.) And I agree with your further comment, let’s switch from the psychological plane (insanity) to the objective one (economics.)

    While it appears to be true that a lot of Harvard MBA’s ignored the irrationality of selling CDS (insurance) to people who didn’t own the underlying asset being insured (and thus acted in a demonstrably “insane” way), it’s also true that underlying laws of the marketplace gave them no choice. Some financial CEO, or ratings agency head, said virtually that: “we knew it was wrong, but we couldn’t afford not to when everyone else was.”

    Capital, to Marxists as well as to bourgeois, is supremely “rational” — that’s how how it got where it is — but it is rational in a limited sense. As Richard Dreyfuss playing Cheney in “W” points out, a war for oil is imperative for continuing the American empire, but as it turns out, not going to war and changing our way of life was also a choice, probably a better one.

    Klein is right, partly. Some sectors of the elite are learning to profit from the dissolution of the system ,from disasters both natural and man-made. Soros is an example. The majority though are just acting under age old laws of competition, fighting for the upper hand, whatever it costs.

  11. Tallifer

    [Ian wrote: The War on Drugs hasn’t reduced the number of junkies or drugs on the street in any noticeable way. It has increased the US’s prison population to the highest per capita level in the world, however. It has cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It has gutted civil liberties (the war on terror is just the war on drugs on crack, after all). And after 30 years does anyone seriously say “wait, this doesn’t work, it costs billions of dollars and it makes us a society of prisons?” Of course not, if anything people compete to be “tough on crime.”]

    The War on Drugs is a manifestation of America’s split personality and the efforts of each half to bamboozle the other. The Christian right views the use of narcotics as not only a wicked sin but a wilful rebellion against patriarchal authority, and it views the violent crime associated therewith as simply the wilful but mindless brutality of the reprobate and the demonic.

    But no politician in a democracy can say that. Therefore, they speak of reducing drug abuse and protecting the innocent. Furthermore, the right wants to keep its guns and its freedom of speech, which means it is very reluctantly constrained to extend many of the same rights to its foes. Unfortunately for them, this means that drug lords can pay for American-style justice and only the poor can be vicariously punished.

    Fundamentalist Christians accept that the war on drugs cannot be won. Indeed, they see it as a sign of the end of time. Some of them work and pray for a rechristianization of America, but even many of these see proselytization as a good work done for its own sake rather than a plan for success. Predestinarian Calvinism is regaining popularity among evangelicals, who see it as a good explanation for the social sodom of modern America.

    All this is bound to be incomprehensible to the typical outside and rational observer.

  12. Ed

    I’m an American, but I’ve spent fairly large amounts of time living outside the country so hopefully my mixed perspective may offer some insights. Its actually worse than you think.

    The American diet is uniquely horrible. Most of the food in American supermarkets are industrial concoctions of chemical additives, often using processes banned in other countries. Many people have realized that and have turned to “organic” foods (basically foods grown and marketed the way they were normally grown and marketed forty years ago) but the government is trying to corrupt this. Many Americans are physically sick because of the high fructose corn syrup and other additives. This includes some of the decision-makers.

    Next you get the constant bombardment of electronic stimuli, not just television now but blackberries and cellphones. In the US you walk into stores and supermarkets and you are immediately bombarded with piped in music. This isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere. There are TVs in almost every bar and in many restaurants. New York City, where people think of themselves as somehow different than the rest of the country, is the worst case of this since the city put TV in cabs, bombards subway commuters with all sorts of messages, and every third person is constantly using a cellphone or blackberry.

    Its also normal now to use all sorts of mind altering drugs given to you by doctors, but you can get in serious legal trouble if you try to go out and use drugs on your own, including the two legal drugs in some cases.

    Other countries don’t have the corruption of the food supply, and in many places the aural and visual bombardment isn’t as bad. I think these two things may be changing the brain chemistry of individual Americans. I don’t know if it is a deliberate method of control since its seems the members of the elite are subjecting themselves to them as well.

    This sort of sounds like the lead poisoning theory of the decline of the Roman empire, so I will add that it is fairly common for powerful states to decline, and often the period when they are sickest are the time where there is no outward sign that they are losing their power.

  13. Ian Welsh


    I’m always shocked by the number of people on anti-depressants. And, much to my surprise, I recently found out that anti-depressants are actually more addictive, according to shrinks, than heroin or meth. Yet it seems like, in certain circles, almost everyone is on them. (In particular, this scourge seems to hit women more than men, though both use.)

    Agreed on the food. It was something I hadn’t looked into really until these last few months (as I tried to fix my own health) and the extent to which the food chain is screwed up shocked me. Even just sticking to “the outside” of meat and vegetables isn’t entirely good, and now that I know how to read packages I’m shocked at how many amount to low grade poisoning.

    I think there’s something to be said for sick and insane. The late Robert Heinlein predicted that at this point, the majority of Americans would literally be insane by other period’s standards. More and more I wonder if he was right.

  14. someofparts

    Isolation is the only solution I’ve found to the problems you describe – at least the only one for folks that are stuck here.

    Being American right now feels like the social equivalent of having Parkinsons. The mind may be clear, but the body/community is certain to respond in dysfunctional, self-destructive ways if any demands are made upon it.

    The best advice any more for those of us trapped here physically but not intellectually is to be as invisible as possible. The less attention one draws from whacko fellow citizens or utterly deranged elites, the better.

  15. senecal

    I like Tallifer’s point — some parts of our society are consciously pursuing insanity (or irrationality.) Paul Goodman made a similar point decades ago, when he speculated that certain classes, beset by anxiety and alienation from which they couldn’t see any escape, seemed to have a fascination with “the bomb”, as if unconsciously welcoming annihilation.

    And Ed — I’m forwarding your comment on to my SO, who is an avid collector of information on ways we’re being collectively poisoned. She just told me about an article on Huffington Post which talks about manufacturers adding ingredients to food specifically to make the food item addictive. The tobacco industry’s suppression of what they about nicotine’s addictive properties is the subject of the excellent movie “The Insider”.

  16. someofparts

    Okay. Cue rueful laughter. Reading Ed reminds me that I had forgotten that even our food supplies are dangerous! Jeez Louise!

    I was just thinking about everything else that doesn’t work. Don’t try to get credit because the banksters will swindle you with trick fees and rules. Don’t bother with education because student loans are predatory and the jobs will have been sent offshore by the time you graduate anyway. Don’t even think of going to the doctor because you can’t afford it. And for godsake don’t talk to your neighbors, work colleagues (if you have a job) or relatives because they all drink Fox Kool Aid.

    And then Ed reminded me that the food is unsafe too! I’ve been familiar with the food issues for so long that shopping defensively is second nature. So much so that I forgot about it. But it strikes me as emblematic of the whole mess. America, where it is too dangerous to work, go to school, get sick, get old, be literate or even … eat!

    And don’t even get me started on the irony of people supporting the most bloated war industrial complex in the history of ever while the nation it presumably protects has devolved to the point where it is unsafe to eat the food or walk the streets without earplugs.

    Yesssss … time to go back to my hidey place now … shuffle shuffle.

  17. Ten Bears

    We’ve reached a point of statistical implosion – too big not too fail.

  18. jo6pac

    Ian and Ed right on as movie fan in the Termenator when they’re at the gas station. We’re Not Going to Make are We, says it all and as much I want it to! We are (US) for sure it’s all about me and what have you done for me lately. I hope we all get out alive but that might not happen.

  19. And if you can find a Senator who isn’t a millionaire (except maybe Bernie Sanders) you let me know.

    Don’t forget Russ Feingold. I think he’s worth even less than Sanders is.

  20. V. Arnold

    May 6, 2009

    LOL and very true; low profile.
    Writing from my Hermitage; I rarely interact outside the family. A logical response to a country that betrayed its citizens.

    Ian; well spoke and observed; as to predictability; the elites are easy; it’s the unwashed to whom predictability fails, and even then; they have shown a pattern since you wrote this piece (and well before); consistently acting against their own best interests, regardless the issues.

  21. cripes

    Just say we’re collectively running around eating our own entrails and howling at the moon.

    Don’t sugarcoat it.

  22. Herman

    But do Americans really want to end the insanity? If you talk to many Americans about things like single-payer healthcare they will come back at you with stuff like “but I am not paying for somebody else’s healthcare!” and the same thing applies to most other liberal policy ideas that would help the vast majority of Americans. Look at the Trump budget that proposes to cut funding for programs for the poor but leaves many programs used by elderly Americans intact. How many older, middle-class Americans will go along and cheer cuts for the poor as long as their programs aren’t touched? Keep your hands off MY Medicare but screw you if you use food stamps or Medicaid.

    The problem is not just the elites, it is also a significant part of the population that is just plain selfish. The concept of the common good has almost completely disappeared from public discourse. You cannot have a decent society when almost everyone is out for themselves and has a “screw you” attitude toward the rest of the population. You cannot have any kind of muscular liberalism in a society with no culture of solidarity.

  23. BlizzardOfOzzz

    Insane–believing things that aren’t true.Insane–believing things that aren’t true.

    Blacks are essentially the same as whites and can comfortably be integrated into white society.

    The white left in its wilful blindness to the identity question are the mirror of the insanity discussed in the OP. It’s not principles or politics anymore, but identity and war. The white left has so far sided with the West’s mortal enemies.

  24. V. Arnold

    Americans think they are the most technologically advanced society in the world, yet the US does not have the fastest broadband, the fastest trains, the best cellphones, the most advanced consumer electronics (go to Japan and you’ll see what I mean) or the most advanced green energy technology.

    It’s worse than that; Soviets were first to orbit a satelite; first man in space/orbit; first spacewalk; first woman in space, etc., etc..
    And now, thanks to U.S. aggression, the Russians have arguably the best air defense systems on the planet. And, the Russian military budget is less than $100 million.
    The hubris expressed by the U.S. has cost it dearly, solely to chest thump utter illusions to the rest of the world…
    Most are no longer buying the bullshit.

  25. The Stephen Miller Band

    This blog post describes Donald Trump and his ilk perfectly. Spot On. It describes The Global Oligarchy perfectly, and that Oligarchy includes Russians, Chinese, Arabs, Persians, Israelis… name it. It transcends Nations, Cultures and Ethnicities. It’s its own Culture & Ethnicity. The Rich are a different species. And they view The Poor as a different species. They view The Poor, The Little People, as subhuman when in fact it is The Rich who are not human but instead some degraded form of humanity gone terribly wrong.

  26. The Stephen Miller Band

    My wife is the head of Montessori School that serves refugees. This year the school was funded by a wealthy Eastern Indian American Muslim man who suddenly and without notice pulled his funding. Is he American? Are the Muslim Immigrants who also occupy the building where my wife’s school is housed also Americans? They’re learning to be American Citizens. They run an organization that integrates Eastern Indian Muslim Immigrants into American Society. The wealthy Eastern Indian Muslim man already is an American Citizen — an extremely wealthy one.

    My wife has tripled enrollment in the school and the parents emphatically praise her every day for what she is doing. They are so grateful & appreciative, and yet this wealthy Muslim Benefactor doesn’t really care. It’s a known fact he has to give money away every year for tax purposes — that’s why he funded my wife’s school to begin with. He has led these immigrants on and set them up for another emotionally devastating loss because my wife is now having to shut the school down. All of my wife’s students are Muslim. My wife’s assistant is Muslim. They need this more than anything they need in their lives right now and this PRICK has said NO just like Donald Trump says NO.

    Americans, my ass. This thing transcends any notion of America and Americans. It’s much more than that and we’re not going to change anything until we change our perspective.

  27. The answer Is that much of the rest of world has gone crazy, too. May in Britain, the recent French election, Merkel as Chancellor of Deutschland, the problems in Greece, Erdogan in Turkey, that situation in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile – even China is halfway mad.

    But don’t worry, it will be a different kind of mad when China gets their fleet together – which will be in 15 years. Which is an extremely short period of time.

    It is true of the market in politics as well as the market in money – the market can stay solvent longer than you can bet against it.

  28. One other thing: the crazy person will not listen to anyone who wants to do something mad – because that would upset the natural order of such things. Which feeds into the “doing the same thing…”

    Many of your commentators here are like this – they keep trying to destroy things which work, rather than things which do not work. Even the mad are mad.

  29. bozo

    why does the redirect to the new york times?

  30. V. Arnold

    May 24, 2017

    Because the Agonist is no more.
    A guy named Jay (who took over) wouldn’t allow any negative post regarding Hillary C. during the last election; we revolted and said a big FU to Jay and his moderation; end of story…

  31. wendy davis

    @ E Tashiro: of which of ‘Naomi Klein’s analysises do you speak, please?

  32. Willy

    ‘Entertainment conservatism’ is designed to appeal to that large part of the general population who need teams, who need an enemy to fight for the sake of the tribe, at the behest of some strong and sanctioned authority. Apparently, being brainwashed into focusing exclusively on fighting the other team unbalanced their thinking. Different opinions went from: different potential ideas from credentialed experts, to, evil thoughts from ‘the other’ to be banished. There are many stories out there from people watching their beloved parent or friend being slowly brainwashed from calm moderate into an angry radical by some media which knows how to do this.

    I’m interested in deprogramming. I’d love to be able to do this on a personal level.

    On the positive, the evidence is becoming overwhelming that we’re living in a kleptocracy (or should be I’d think) and the brainwashed will be hitting bottom soon.

  33. StewartM

    (Second repost, last one was May 5, 2009. This is, imo, one of the more important posts I ever wrote.)

    I agree, which why I point people to read this.

  34. Ian Welsh

    Everyone needs some deprogramming. Most of what passes for deprogramming is reprogramming, the person doensn’t get free, they run more socially acceptable programming.

    Didn’t realize the Agonist was gone entirely. Sad and stupid, there were a lot of archives.

  35. EmilianoZ

    I’m always surprised that the dollar hasn’t crashed yet. Maybe the rest of the world is as crazy as the US. Here at least, there’s grading on a curve.

  36. Hi Ian.

    Had to check web archive (wayback machine) to read your link:

    It, and all attempts to go to are redirected to the


  37. Pelham

    I’ll suggest one possible corrective that might actually add weight to your argument. When you say that “for 30 years ordinary Americans haven’t had a raise,” you’re right but in so saying obscure a larger and more salient point.

    While household incomes have indeed been flat, what families need to pay for inescapable necessities has soared to the point that most of us are now hopeless hostages to debt. Think of housing, college education (now a punishing necessity rather than a nice option), healthcare insurance and the medical/industrial complex. And then there’s the astronomical cost of servicing the inevitable ensuing debt.

    These are factors that, for some mysterious reason, do not appear to be included in inflation calculations. But just occasionally one gets a sobering glimpse. Elizabeth Warren, for instance, relates how her mother working at a single minimum-wage, full-time job in the 1960s was single-handedly able to pay a mortgage on a house and support a couple of kids, pay for college, maintain healthcare insurance, keep a car in running order and pay for all the other necessities of life (though no luxuries) without going into debt. That’s nowhere near possible today.

    Separately, USA Today a couple of years ago tallied up what it would take for a typical household of four to achieve a minimal middle-class standard of living without plunging into debt. It came to $130,000, more than twice the median income for such households at the time — and today.

    On another point, I believe that as a nation we certainly behave insanely. But let’s not confuse a nation with its people. The two aren’t entirely distinct, but there are important differences. Bernie Sanders, for instance, was and remains the single most popular politician in the country, a status he wouldn’t enjoy if a broad swath of Americans weren’t clued into at least a vague notion that something is terribly wrong. The fact that he isn’t president today is not so much due to the failings of the American electorate as it is to the fears and machinations of a leadership class that finds Sanders upsetting.

  38. Z

    I’d say that the biggest reasons for this ongoing insanity is that we live in a fiat currency world which allows the most powerful countries to paper over their economic maladies rather than address them, the U.S. has the king fiat currency and a corrupt federal reserve that shamelessly serves the elites over the vast majority of the country, and the U.S. has the military to enforce this corrupt monetary system on the rest of the world.


  39. Synoia

    America has created an Aristocracy.

    The Aristocratic Class, the Upper Class, always holds the Middle and Lower Classes in contempt, and some fear.

    The Lower Class they bully, suppress and control with much violence, and the ever present threat of violence. They are a combination of contempt, indifference and fear of the Lower Classes.

    The Middle Class is who they fear. Revolutions happen when the Middle Class has nothing to loose, not even a fear of loss of life.

    Why is the Middle Class so important in revolutions? Because they have the skills to organize the Lower Class into a revolt.

    Evidence: Bernie Saunders, John Edwards and probably others.

  40. bruce wilder

    Almost ten years and the insanity continues unabated — if anything, Trump as Prez and the Deep State / Clintonite alliance to push the Russia Conspiracy has taken things to a whole new level.

    I talk to people about various bits of insanity — the futility of perpetual war in Afghanistan, for example, or the fear campaign re: North Korea or real estate prices and rents in my city — the pushback is remarkable for its ferocity. That ferocity is new, or rather spreading out from the kernel of 9/11 fear and perhaps the shock of the election result. I do not know if the ferocity indicates a phase change is underway, or just a symptom of increasing stress.

  41. Hugh

    As everyone here already knows by now, I view the US and the world through the lens of wealth inequality, kleptocracy, and class war. Our world is defined by rich and elites who establish their wealth through stealing and maintain it by setting the rest of us against each other. This is unsustainable. And what is unsustainable can not last but it can take a while for things to fall apart and there is no guarantee that what comes after won’t be worse. In fact, on our current trajectory, the likelihood is that it will be worse.

    It isn’t just that our ruling classes of the rich and elites serve themselves at our expense. Even if they were more benign, and not the raging cancer they are, both they and we live in a world that doesn’t exist. The world is not defined in post-World War II, post-Cold War, globalized consumer societies. It is defined by climate change and overpopulation. Much of the world we know, whole continents and regions, are going to fall apart, and that is already baked in. The process has already begun. The number of failed and failing states, the rising waves of immigrants fleeing somewhere worse are already here and mounting. The idea that the US can bomb, or not bomb, someplace in Yemen or Afghanistan, even with the Mother of All Bombs, and stop or reverse this tide is totally disconnected from reality. Much of the world is going to fall apart, and US military power and American empire are totally irrelevant to this, for good or ill.

  42. Hugh

    As an aside, the net worth of members of Congress is probably pretty hinky. In 2016, Roll Call listed the minimum net worth (assets minus liabilities) of Senators. Bernie Sanders was 82nd at $160,000. 14 Senators had minimum net worths which were negative.

    Senate net worth rank Senator Minimum net worth
    82 Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. $160,000
    83 Mike Lee, R-Utah $120,000
    84 Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. $120,000
    85 Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. $90,000
    86 John Thune, R-S.D. $80,000
    87 James Lankford, R-Okla. -$10,000
    88 Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. -$50,000
    89 Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. -$80,000
    90 Cory Gardner, R-Colo. -$110,000
    91 Christopher Murphy, D-Conn. -$140,000
    92 Marco Rubio, R-Fla. -$160,000
    93 Jack Reed, D-R.I. -$170,000
    94 John Cornyn, R-Texas -$230,000
    95 Mark Kirk, R-Ill. -$260,000
    96 Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. -$350,000
    97 Roger Wicker, R-Miss. -$450,000
    98 Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii -$460,000
    99 Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. -$590,000
    100 Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. -$720,000

    There are actually quite a few well known on this bottom dwellers list, which makes me think that at their level wealth is a very flexible concept.

    As per usual, Republican Darrell Issa in the House and Democrat Mark Warner in the Senate remain the richest members of Congress.

  43. @Synoia
    And Jesse Jackson’s rainbow coalition had real hope and real “mo”. People forget that he won 11 primaries. He went to Appalachia and was greeted with tears and thanks. (Bobby Kennedy, Jackson, then Edwards were the only candidates to go to Appalachia.) The Third Way Dems found a way to stomp out that hope like they stomped out the Bernie hope and the Edwards/Kucinich hope. And now I pray it’s their turn to get stomped.

  44. NoPolitician

    I live in Massachusetts, and I participate in a liberal blog here. I live in the western part of the state, whereas most of the population is in or near Boston in the east.

    The Boston economy is booming, and once that happened, there is no more discussion on the blog about the economy. It has turned to more global issues, like climate change, health care, etc. Meanwhile the western part of the state is still massively hurting.

    When I try and bring this up, I get slapped down. People don’t believe it, liberals start doubting the character of the people in the west, and can’t believe they can’t find work. They look for excuses – personal failures – as to why things aren’t as good. When push comes to shove, they say that maybe the west part of the state should just be left to go back to farmland, that we were important 100 years ago, but are no longer.

    This is the precise attitude that fuels Trump supporters.

    There are more “liberal elites” out there than people want to believe. When you come down to it, very few “liberals” or “democrats” support truly left things – for example, how about we raise taxes on everyone, not just the “wealthy”? How about a good old-fashioned broad-based tax increase, and let’s fund some infrastructure?

    You won’t find too many Democrats or liberals supporting that.

  45. V. Arnold

    Ian Welsh *
    May 24, 2017

    Didn’t realize the Agonist was gone entirely. Sad and stupid, there were a lot of archives.

    Indeed, sad and stupid. Jay was well known by long term posters; most were shocked by his edict to not criticise Clinton.
    It effectively shut down the blog.

  46. Herman


    I have noticed the same thing on other liberal sites. It just shows you that the Democrats are the party of the socially liberal section of the upper and upper middle-class. That is why liberals are so keen on identity politics. Talking about race instead of class switches the narrative away from the ugly truth that plenty of so-called liberal Democrats supported policies like NAFTA that have destroyed the lives of millions of working-class Americans while maintaining the gravy train for professionals and upper-level managers along with the super-rich ownership class.

    The same thing applies to immigration. Affluent liberals are not seeing their wages decline from mass immigration and in fact benefit from cheap labor. They love cheap nannies, maids, landscapers and tradesmen. On the other hand, whole industries like meatpacking that used to support decent middle-class livelihoods for less-educated workers have now been turned into low-wage, non-union crap jobs precisely because employers used scab foreign labor to break the meatpacking unions.

    Rich liberals hide their economic agenda behind claims of altruism while branding anyone who disagrees with them as a racist, nativist, misogynist, etc., even if it is not true. Rich liberals hate the native-born American working class with a passion while being very generous with their jobs and wages, always wanting to help the world’s poor with somebody else’s livelihood but never their own. It is funny that these people cry over the families of illegal immigrants being broken up but tell working-class Americans to suck it up and leave their homes and families and “go where the jobs are.”

  47. george hirst

    Fortunately, the Wayback Machine snagged a copy of the agonist post in question. I’d wager they have most of them, though searching for them will be a bit of a pain.

    Reading some of the thread, I can’t get over how polite the comments are – it’s like this is from some other internet.

  48. Tom R

    Thomas Friedman is more upbeat about America and laid this out here

    I would appreciate more than predictable scorn for Friedman in your response.

  49. Tom W Harris

    An ode to Thomas Friedman:


    Dada dada dada dada
    Dada dada dada dada
    Dada dada dada dada

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
    Dada dada dada dada
    Dada dada dada dada Dada dada dada dada

  50. Hugh

    Tom R, it looks like standard Friedman. He hits 3 places, talks to one person in each, and makes vast generalizations. Problem solved.

    What he left out about Austin is that meth and opioids are pretty common in rural areas, especially poor rural areas, but they are also pretty common in poor and not so poor urban areas as well. The HIV outbreak in Austin had a lot to do with a mixture of drugs and prostitution and the slow response of the state. A lot of Republicans in the legislature saw Austin not as a health problem but a moral breakdown and were all for leaving the people there to stew in their own immoral juices. Mike Pence only grudgingly allowed a limited needle exchange program to be set up there to contain the outbreak.

    Louisville is a tale of two cities. One is blue collar industrial with UPS, Ford, GE, and various chemical plants. The other is white collar principally with Humana and the University of Louisville. There has been a lot of upscale development in the downtown, some gentrified neighborhoods, and a well to do East End. The West End is primarily black and a shooting gallery. But there are drug problems throughout the metro area. It is a microcosm of the 80/20 split. 20% of the population, Friedman’s people, are doing fine. The other 80%, not so much.

  51. Ian Welsh

    Thanks George, updated.

    Yes, in general the internet of the 2000s was better than the internet of the 2010s.

    The internet of the 1990s, despite its limitations, was vastly better, and vastly smarter.

  52. Hugh

    Don’t know if this qualifies as insane, but it was something I was thinking about. Look at Trump.

    He fires his first National Security Adviser Flynn who took a lot of big bucks from the Turks. So despite this connection, Trump invites Turkey’s current dictator Erdogan to the White House. And Erdogan repays Trump by having his bully boy security thugs beat up American citizens on American soil.

    Trump says he is going to work wonders with healthcare, but then he embraces Ryancare which cuts services and dumps millions of people entirely, many of these people Trump voters. He figures it will save hundreds of billions which he can use to fund tax cuts for the ultra-rich, like him. He tries to force it through the House anyway in just 17 days, but his effort gets shot down by the Freedom Caucus, a group of most extreme Republican conservatives. And only by making nice with these does he get his bill passed in the Republican House, only to have it judged dead on arrival in the Republican Senate. So you might think that Trump didn’t have much use for the Freedom Caucus jerking him around like that, right? Wrong, the guy he made his director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus. So Mulvaney sends up the Administration’s proposed budget cutting aid to the poor and transferring wealth to the rich. And it is declared DOA as soon as it hits the Senate.

    Trump wants to put the Russia investigation behind him. So he tells FBI director Comey he wants it to go away. Comey demurs, but writes a memo detailing the encounter. Trump fires Comey and then repeatedly lies about it. So far it is only he says he says. But Trump also asked the DNI and the head of the NSA if they could make the Russia investigation go away. So now it’s no longer he said he said. It’s he said and they corroborate Comey. But now Trump needs to lawyer up. So he picks his old New York attack dog lawyer Marc Kasowitz. Stupid. If you have a Washington problem, you better get a Washington lawyer. It’s a little like having a problem with your football team and hiring a basketball coach to fix it. But Trump also needs to a new FBI director. So who does he first push? The smarmy, sanctimonious Joe Lieberman, Obama’s “mentor” in the Senate, Gore’s godawful running mate, and just all around backstabbing sonofabitch. But there’s this wee problem that gets in the way. Lieberman works for Kasowitz. Ooops.

    This is the recurring theme with Trump. What was he thinking? And you really get the impression that he’s not. He’s nuts. That’s what makes comprehensible statements like he just left the Middle East when he flew from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

    What Trump and really all our Presidents from Reagan onward remind me of is the various histories I used to read in English and Latin of the first century Roman emperors, each one weirder than the last. And what they made me marvel at was not that the Roman Empire fell but that it didn’t fall much sooner.

  53. Hugh

    Re the internet, the snark used to be a lot better, and far more common. People have pretty much lost their sense of humor. Sad but understandable.

    In the Bush years, it was easier for liberals and progressives, despite some tensions, to make common cause. But with Obama, cracks between the two groups became chasms. You could make a list of all blogs and bloggers who drank the Democratic koolaid, or dropped the pretense, and started acting in the same fact free, partisan way that they used to beat up the wingnut right about. And this process of splintering has continued as some progressives have embraced candidates like Bernie Sanders (and then had to do somersaults to justify and rationalize their support of him) and ideas like Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) (which they are just as doctrinaire about as conservative supply-siders). All this has produced a lot of scars and a lot less patience.

  54. ———-It’s not just about knowing what the facts———

    First things first, you got to get your facts right.

    ——–lots of rural whites get to lock up uban blacks——

    Ummm…so rural whites are to blame for locking up urban blacks. Funny, I live in rural white America and within a mile of me I know 3 ex-cons who just happen to be rural whites. Drug charges for all three. And not a lot of people live within a mile of me. Read the arrest record in local rural newspaper, rows of charges every week for so many and in such a small rural place. Every week, week after week. So if all those rural whites are to blame for locking up all those urban blacks, then they are also responsible for locking up huge numbers of their own as well. I guess I just never realized the power and vindictive nature of the average, everyday, barely surviving, penniless rural white. Myself, I always suspected the responsibility for the prison industry would be found amonst those with power rather than the powerless. Although clearly, when ranting, it is easier to simply blame the stereotypical hollywood, rural white rather than think a little deeper. Just the facts, ma’am.

    ——-Insane–believing things that aren’t true.—–

    Ummm…well join the club.

    Of course, in general, I do agree with you that American society, left and right, is basically insane. But then, I also suspect the rest of the world is probably insane as well. At least to various degrees and probably always has been. I think to find the root causes, a close examination of human nature and societal values might be rewarding.

  55. V. Arnold

    May 25, 2017

    …But then, I also suspect the rest of the world is probably insane as well. At least to various degrees and probably always has been.

    There are places in this world not yet infected with the bile generated by the U.S. value (?) system.
    But, in my experience, one must seek out third world countries, and, further, find rural areas still holding on to their cultural values.
    This of course requires leaving one’s first world values and adapting to the chosen culture’s mores and norms and to a greater degree, language (very important for understanding culture).
    Quite the challenge; especially for Usian’s, IME.

  56. Peter


    You seem to try to understand the root causes and history of the US’s many problems and failures even if I don’t support some of your conclusions.

    Why is it then that you revert to parroting western propaganda from our biased media when the subject of Turkey and especially Erdogan arises? You don’t have to travel far from Turkey to find real military dictators in Syria and Egypt who were installed in their ruling positions and then adopted the veneer of democracy. Erdogan even with his faults used popular politics often opposed by the Turkish military, including a bloody coup attempt, to be elected to his ruling position which is the definition of democracy.

    I don’t think you need to write fake news about the Kurds or opposition reporters who were roughed up by Erdogans security team by identifying them as American citizens although there may have been a few caught in the scuffle. The demonstrators were there supporting PYD party members arrested for diverting funds to the PKK so they were identifying themselves as terrorist supporters which is a red flag to Erdogan and his supporters who were counter-demonstrating at the embassy.

  57. bruce wilder

    My Prime Example of Center-Left Insanity isn’t Tom Friedman anymore, or even the people who read Tom Friedman and think he makes profound sense. My bête noire is LGM’s Scott Lemieux. I know some like Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum or Matthew Yglesias, but no one I’ve encountered is quite as pure a specimen as Scott Lemieux. Oh, sure, Kevin Drum cannot figure out why anyone “serious” would think single-payer could be cheaper and, of course, Matthew Yglesias thinks America will be saved as soon as we dump the licensing of barbers, so that a $15 haircut costs $9, but Scott Lemieux’s self-assurance that he knows what is politically practical is unassailable as a redoubt from which to scorn all to his left and he does so relentlessly.

    Today, he excitedly spins the latest, insanely implausible “development” in the Russia Conspiracy: the Washington Post reports that the Russians influenced Comey by sneaking a fake letter into the FBI’s investigative files that suggested Attorney General Loretta Lynch had agreed with the Clintons to blunt the investigation into Clinton’s email server. Apparently, Bill Clinton’s well-publicized encounter on the tarmac with Attorney General Lynch was unfortunate optics, but the Russian fake document, that appeared from nowhere, did the trick.

    This level of insanity is beyond exasperating. It is impossible to explain to anyone who has gone thru this looking glass why their reasoning is faulty, because . . . their capacity to reason is faulty or they would not be reasoning in this way.

  58. Agonist was always one step from annihilation – it at plumbed the depths once before, but a few of us kept it going because the founder was contrite.

  59. Morongobill

    Regarding the U.S. military:

    I liken it to the boxer who has fattened his record on a steady stream of “tomato cans.”

    One day he gets in the ring with a fighter who can actually do just that, fight, and the “champ” gets his ass knocked out.

    Spending a ton of money doesn’t turn into results on the ground . Look at the Houthis as one example. No money, getting most of their arms from kicking the Saudi’s asses, beating the Saudi ass all over the ring from corner to corner. Too bad the average American has never and will never hear about their valor.

  60. Hugh

    Saddam Hussein won elections, often with more than 90% of the vote. What could be more democratic than that? Well, almost anything. Erdogan isn’t a military dictator. He’s just a dictator. And that it is OK for Erdogan’s bodyguards to wage their little wars in the nation’s capital is preposterous. By the way, Erdogan has extended his state of emergency until Turkey achieves “welfare and peace,” in other words, he has made it permanent. We should take our 50 H-bombs stored at Incirlik (if you want an example of insanity) and get the hell out of Dodge.

  61. bruce wilder

    Stirling Newberry:

    One other thing: the crazy person will not listen to anyone who wants to do something mad – because that would upset the natural order of such things. Which feeds into the “doing the same thing…”

    Many . . . keep trying to destroy things which work, rather than things which do not work. Even the mad are mad.

    Sterling’s comment intrigued me, partly because I see a lot of people attack Trump as “not normal” and partly because much of the Russia Conspiracy hysteria driving thru the Media, too, depends for its narrative frisson on completely made-up standards of what is normal. (Apparently no one in Washington ever meets with Ambassadors and if they do, they immediately file for a permission slip with the Deep State — news to me.)
    Way back in 2005, I thought I had some idea of what was coming. I thought the consequences of Bush’s insanely bad policies were going to bring the US to its senses and the Democrats would displace the Republicans in power and implement a reversal of policy in some critical areas. Not usher in the millennium or anything like that, but modest concessions to reality, like structural financial reform, increased spending on public goods and infrastructure, a change of direction on globalization and trade, and getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember Katrina in particular being a wake up call for some of my conservative friends who were just appalled by the negligence.
    Now, I see a lot of people trying to destroy things, working or not. And, with no consciousness that that is what they are doing. I really think supporting Hillary Clinton induced dementia, it required so much agnotological rationalization. In theory, I see the plausibility of a lesser-evil argument especially vis a vis Trump; I thought Clinton would be elected for that reason. But, when people argued for Clinton, even as the lesser evil, it seemed to be like a self-administered frontal lobotomy. All they needed to know was the difference, however minute, and pretty soon Clinton’s actual politics disappeared into the memory hole or into an obsessive normalization. Everything was “normal”. The Clinton Foundation was normal. Intervening in Syria was normal. Opposing a $15 minimum wage or single-payer health care was normal. There was no critical thinking going on at all. The narrative fed out of the Clinton campaign was absorbed like pre-digested formula: she was always a pioneer of women’s rights fighting for the children.

    And, now I watch the Clintonites and the Deep State cooperate with their Russia Conspiracy, with no apparent awareness of the destructive consequences of removing Trump or jeopardizing the U.S. relationship with Russia, a nuclear power. Bill Maher was arguing for Pence as “normal” at the top of his voice, all because Cornel West pointed out reasons why Clinton would have been a terrible President.

  62. DMC

    Bruce, I’m with you 100% on Scott Lemieux as the very quintessence of centrist, phony liberal, blue dog-ism. And his little running mate Loomis isn’t much better. And then there’s the whole gaggle of guys that make their whole living making fun of David Brooks and Friedman, when for all intents and purposes they ARE David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, that is utter centrists with endless contempt for anybody who actually has a strong opinion about pretty much anything, especially lefties.

  63. Peter

    Saddam is still dead although he may have held staged elections just as Assad and al Sisi have done and the results are preordained with the new 75% approval rating used to show tolerance for some unthreatening opposition. I doubt that many if any dictators have come to power without their military’s active or passive support.

    This incident in DC probably wouldn’t have happened if the Capital Police had done their job and separated the pro and anti Erdogan demonstrators. Erdogan knew he was going to get nothing but bad press from the US media so he had his security team come to the aid of his supporters which would at least impress his supporters at home.

    France is still under a state of emergency and they didn’t have a bloody coup attempt nor do they have a vicious cult of personality deeply embedded in their government and society.

  64. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    I would like to see a simpler more user-friendly word invincibly fortified and aggressively spread stupidness and ignorance than “agnotology” Something like “stupidism”. Or militant stupidism. As in . . . Militant Stupidites for Clinton.

    I only barely ever heard of the blog Agonist. If it is off the current InterWebNets, it could maybe still be found at The Internet Archives Wayback Machine. But you can only find it if you have the exactly correct URL or Web Address or whatever those things are called, and can type it in exactly correctly into the Search Window. If you can do that, chances are this “Agonist” will be there.

  65. bruce wilder

    different clue:

    You have a point, maybe several points in your favor. I use agnatology and my other fav, dunning-krueger effect, with an awareness that the tote bag liberals who believe everything they hear on NPR are as serious a problem as the audience for Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.

  66. Hugh

    bruce wilder, the MSM does a good job at criticizing Trump. There are exceptions, but much of it is on point and sounds completely sane. It is only when they speak affirmatively about anything that they instantly revert to Washington Consensus claptrap. The cognitive dissonance can be jolting.

    And too while Democrats and Republicans vie with each other constantly and both sound nuts. This does not stop both from screwing over the rest of us. If they were truly mad, they would not so consistently serve their own interests and always at our expense.

  67. bruce wilder


    I strongly disagree: although criticising Trump may be a job very much worth doing, what the MSM is doing is the exact opposite of “a good job”. The reckless abandonment of journalistic principles and standards, already too infrequently observed, is part of the madness, is generating the madness. The way people are going around drawing parallels to Watergate is nuts. The daily drumbeat of sensational reports sourced to unnamed officials and wild speculation about what might be found in an investigation into anything and everything is nonsensical.

    You are right about one thing: all the screeching from the likes of Rachel Maddow is not going to prevent either Democrats or Republicans from screwing the majority. The madness does not disable the plutocracy or multimillionaire celebrities like Marrow.

  68. Hugh

    bruce wilder, it isn’t the investigations. It’s Trump’s reaction to them, his attempts to illegally shut down and/or influence them. It is his sucking up to the Saudis and Israelis and then dissing European leaders. It is the in your face lying of Trump and his subordinates. It is all of his personal ignorance, his failure to staff his Administration, and to staff what little he has with hard core kleptocratic ideologues. They are actually doing a pretty good job on this. But sure, you still have clowns like Rachel Maddow who see a Russkie under every bed and behind every curtain.

  69. Steeleweed

    @Bozo et al: The content of Agonist is archived at The authors may not always reflect correctly as I sometimes forgot to import users along with the posts.

  70. tsisageya

    Just remember, humans self-identify as the top of the heap.

  71. different clue

    @bruce wilder,

    Well . . . the Tote Bag Liberals certainly love big words like Agnotology and Dunning-Krueger Effect. It makes them feel like their Soopeereeur Innaleck is being respected. They would be very upset to discover that such words were being used to define and describe their own Clinton-supporting selves.

    Whereas using simple words like stupidism and stupidite can reach all the Foxies and the Hannitisers. They will know exactly what those fighting words mean. I don’t know what you do with the Hannitees and the Libarglers if you get their attention by calling them stupidites, though.

    Still, why do the brillyunt innalekshuls have to go around using words like “intersectionality”? Why can’t they use “overlap”? Where’s George Wallace when you need him. He’d kick their pointy-headed asses all over the street with their “intersectionality”?

  72. Peter


    Claiming the MSM does a good job witch-hunting Trump and his team makes it evident you have joined the snowflakes in their Meth Lab Matrix. I think there needs to be a search for justice not a baseless political agenda for there to be obstruction of justice. We only have rumors about Trump pressuring Comey about the unrelated Flynn investigation so he could have been asking for the timely release of the probably long completed investigation so Flynn could move on. If there was anything newsworthy from that investigation it would have been leaked by now. I don’t think you can describe a president’s asking intelligence department heads for help in rebutting a political evidence free attack as abuse of power or obstructing justice.

    This is how our political witch-hunts function with the primary charges never expected to be verified because they are bogus but the spinoffs from mistakes and omissions are used to keep the inquisition fires burning. There hasn’t been much new to bloviate about so the MSM is repeating old stories. They’re doubling down on the lie that Sessions tried to hide his meetings with the Russian ambassador on his security clearance paperwork. The FBI advised him that it wasn’t necessary because those meetings were in the Senate record as Senate business.

    It appears that the only actual legal charges brought by the DOJ may be for Mike Flynn’s not registering as a foreign agent for Turkey or Ukraine and have nothing to do with Russia.

  73. Hugh

    Shorter Peter, blah, blah, Trump good, blah, blah.

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